Climate change, ozone pollution threaten public health, report says

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Climate change-induced ozone pollution could cost U.S. residents more than $5 billion in health-related costs in 2020, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report, Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution, finds that unchecked global warming could increase ground-level ozone, threatening public health and the economy.

Ground-level ozone pollution can exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma and can cause difficulties in healthy individuals, the report says. Global warming has increased temperatures in the United States by more than two degrees Farenheit over the past century—and temperatures are projected to continue rising throughout the next few decades and beyond. Warmer temperatures increase ground-level ozone. “That’s why we hear warnings of ‘bad air days’ due to ozone pollution most often during the summer and on cloud-free days,” according to the report.

Key findings of the report include:

  • In 2020, the continental U.S. could pay an average of $5.4 billion in health impact costs associated with the climate penalty on ozone.
  • Higher ground-level ozone concentrations due to rising temperatures in 2020 could lead to an average of 2.8 million more occurrences of asthma attacks, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness—that number could rise to 11.8 million in 2050.
  • The climate penalty on ozone could lead to an average of 944,000 more missed school days in 2020, and 4.1 million in 2050.
  • Higher ozone concentrations could lead to an average of 3,700 more seniors and 1,400 more infants hospitalized for respiratory-related problems in 2020, and 24,000 more seniors and 5,700 more infants hospitalized in 2050.
  • California may experience the greatest health impacts, with an estimated average of $729 million in 2020 alone.

To make the air cleaner, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must strengthen its current standards for ozone and ozone-forming pollutants that come from power plants, industry and vehicles, the report recommends. “But in the face of a rapidly warming world, these efforts alone will not be sufficient—we also need new strategies to reduce the pollution that causes climate change.”

Citation:
1. Perera EM, Sanford T. Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution. Cambridge, Mass.: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011.

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Deaths from climate change will triple in next two decades if inaction continues

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The number of deaths due to climate change will reach one million a year by 2030—up from 350,000 in 2010—if efforts to limit global increases in temperature are not speeded up, warns a new report titled Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010: The State of the Climate Crisis.

Children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will make up close to 80 percent of the casualties. Their deaths, from malnutrition, diarrheal disease and malaria, are entirely preventable with better distribution of mosquito nets, rehydration solutions, and basic dietary and vitamin supplements, says the report, which has been produced jointly by Development Assistance Research Associates (DARA), a humanitarian research organization, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of countries vulnerable to climate change, including the Maldives, Bangladesh and Barbados.

The report also states that close to 10 million people are estimated to be living under threat from climate driven desertification by 2030, up from 2.5 million today. Around US$150 billion in losses to today’s economy are estimated to be caused by climate change.

Source:
1. Development Assistance Research Associates (DARA) and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010: The State of the Climate Crisis. Madrid, Spain: DARA, 2010. (free access)

Putting public health in the climate change agenda

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Carbon Emissions Affect Health

 

The Lancet, British Medical Journal and Finnish Medical Journal have come together to urge health professionals around the world to put health at the heart of climate change negotiations.

An editorial, published simultaneously in all three medical journals on 18 November 2010, warns that failure to agree on radical reductions in emissions spells a global health catastrophe. Written by Ian Roberts and Robin Stott on behalf of the Climate and Health Council, the editorial is a call to action for health professionals across the world to help tackle the health effects of climate change.

“Responding to climate change could be the most important challenge that health professionals face,” the authors say. “We invite colleagues everywhere to join us in tackling this major public health scourge of the 21st century.”

Read more at Suite101.com.

Source:
1. Roberts I, Stott R. Doctors and climate change. Lancet, published online 18 Nov 2010. (open access; free registration required)